"Who, if I cried, in the hierarchy of angels would hear me?" Rainier Maria Rilke

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Thoughts on Facebook(on leaving Facebook)

Last night I deactivated my facebook account after five years of being fairly active there. I slept well! Today I have had several meaningful and long conversations in real time with live people, and I received a few ebullient texts from people who wanted to say “atta girl” and check in with me about how life after facebook is treating me.

I discovered a few things, so far. One, that the world didn’t end. Two, that people who really want to reach me actually do it quicker and with less fuss. Three, that it is so much easier to tell who actually wants to reach me and have meaningful interaction rather than bragging, fronting, selling me a product, concept or cause. Four, that anyone at all who is empathic or psychically sensitive might just face sensory overwhelm on facebook.

I also had time to ponder what the addictive ingredient is in facecrack. One idea that surfaced is that we have become a nation of grown children whose parents both worked entirely too many hours. We feel we never got enough mirroring and approval as kids, so we love, even well into our fifties, signing on somewhere we can post pics of ourselves, our pets, our projects, our meals, our yards, our cars, and get told that people “like” it/them/us. We can get that instant approval. We can vie for fabulousness and popularity and visibility in the way that used to be reserved for high school girls. What 10th grader in the 80s didn’t want a “friend count” to prove how cool she was?  We get to cut people off in that same way junior high school students used to : “Oh her? She used to be my friend but now I’m not talking to her.” It is a big junior high where people get to act out and brag and bully and backbite. That’s my feeling today, and I feel relieved to be out of it.
There were many positive moments; early morning chats with friends on the east coast or in England; quick question and answer sessions about recipes; check-ins with neighbors and relatives I’ve not seen in decades; heartwarming story posts. But so much of it baffled me. Today I felt as if I have been playing naked in the street, and only now thought to go inside and put on some clothes. It is quiet and peaceful here. I do not need to share everything with everyone. I do not need to comment on anyone else’s day/beliefs/politics/religion/thoughts. I do not need to wish someone I’ve not seen in years a happy birthday and be asked to buy them a gift card.

Perhaps I’ll sell my facebook stock. More later.

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What is Healing? Radical and Mostly Useless Thoughts.

This is a funny question for me to pose. I work in the healing arts, both as a massage therapist and as an energy worker. One of the questions that we were asked in massage school has never left me: “What is your vision of what you do and how it fits into society as a whole? Are you healing people who can afford it as a luxury service, or are you part of a larger picture of creating a healthier community and making massage available to all?” Most of us answered this question practically for ourselves by sheepishly allowing that we would mostly work on those who could afford us, and appease our consciences by doing some pro bono work for the less fortunate. We bemoaned the system which made it so, that the people who most need massage often have least access to it, but we did not fight that system as it paid our bills. A lingering discomfort with these stark realities informs our work for many of us.
Many of us give away a fair amount of work to those who cannot afford it at all, but more often we simply shrug our shoulders and give up.
My question about healing is this: Does it really constitute healing if it only treats the privileged few, and does not address larger societal ills? Are anyone’s illnesses really in a vacuum and particular to them? Can I help with caretaking the many people I am suddenly hearing have cancer without also becoming active in working against the poisoning of our water and air and food? Who has time for all this holistic, systemic thinking and action?
Is it healing to alleviate symptoms, or only if you address causes? Is it in fact my job to patch people back up from tendonitis and carpal tunnel so that they might go back to mindless 12 hour days of keyboarding in the service of industries which are destroying the planet?
These are the things I wonder when I drive by people camping in tents in winter under a freeway underpass on my way to do massage on executives and highly paid IT workers. They have not changed over the years, but my faith that by doing my small part I move society towards a healthier place has taken a beating.

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On Help And Helping

The question has arisen from several sides lately regarding what is help, when to seek help, when help is not helpful but hindering. Some of this depends on the agenda of the person helping: do they wish to move you forward in your life, do they wish to impart information you don’t have and alleviate unnecessary suffering? Or are they trying to lessen your pain so you quit taking it out on everyone else but aside from that have no real interest in your well-being? All of these are fine, I think, although the last one will leave you feeling a little odd as the motive is nothing to do with you.
What does not work and only backfires is the “helping” which is predicated on the need of the helper to be useful and to perceive him or herself as better or one-up on the helpee. It draws us into the Karpman drama triangle, where the helped person must be viewed as victim, there must be a persecutor, and the rescuer is more likely than not to take on the persecutor role at some point. Equally often, the victim gets tired of being considered victim and flips into persecuting the rescuer.
All very messy. Feelings are hurt all the way around and no real resolution occurs. Generally, everyone walks away with whatever world view they held going in feeling confirmed for them, and everyone feeling ill-used.
Real help by contrast feels supportive and freeing. It is something you are at liberty to respectfully decline. It adds to your power rather than taking away from it. These are people who ask first, “would you like help or feedback with that or are you just wanting me to listen” before they volunteer solutions or step in to do anything on your behalf.
Another “help” issue which has arisen for me lately is when to ask for help in areas I consider my own specialty-when, in other words, to admit that personally I’m in over my head and become willing to accept help.
I had a steep and good learning curve with that this morning. (Thank you, Ed!). No matter how gifted a healer one is, there is a time and a place to turn to others and accept assistance. I am most grateful this finally occurred to me today.

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The Gift of Death




The gift of death.
Recently I heard, through facebook of course, about the death of one of my oldest friends

and surrogate mother. She knew me from the age of about two, at least until the last few years, when she didn’t know me at all and asked her husband “who is that, why did you bring her here? I don’t like her.” I wept. The last time I saw her she was asleep and while the nurses asked if they should wake her up, I said no, she will only yell at me. Then I wept again, right there in the hall of the nursing home. As I did not cry for my own mother.
This was the woman who first told me it wasn’t my fault my mother was sick; that I was not crazy, that I was a good person. She was the only one for some time.

I felt her death as an inconsolable loss, although she was 91. Then I started reading The Fifth Agreement, by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz and in the process of that reading realized that Lil’s death is a gift to me.(besides the fact that it is about her and not

about me at all.) The end of life of one of the people who has held my story the longest means that parts of my story are forgotten, but it also gives me an opportunity to let go of the story I have come to identify as me.

To Lil, I was poor Amel, the girl who is always so quiet and so polite and so grown and

so alone. The girl with the sick mother who is awkward and doesn’t have friends(except that tomboy, what was her name? Amel, how is Nancy?). Her story about herself, as a housewife who only used her Masters in Social Work for one year of married life, was that she cared about the downtrodden and rescued hopeless cases. I was downtrodden. While it was very comforting to have a rescuer, someone who saw me as needing to escape my mother’s clutches and sickness, someone deserving of love and pity, it also entrapped me. She did not see me as someone who could actually escape, just as someone

who was put upon and sad. She never once gave me nice clothing, any more than my mother did. There was nary a birthday or Hannukah gift; she bought my mother’s line completely that nice things were not for her children. She did take me to the symphony a few times, but there was never a shirt or a sweater or a piece of jewelry like you might give a girl child you called close as relative to you. I had never thought of this, until I wondered why I’d never sent her a present, except for one bouquet of flowers. And a Medicine Buddha talisman, which she scoffed at.

Now that Lil is gone, I have an opportunity to stop being “poor Amel” who needs a rescuer and someone to feel sorry for her. I am not the girl with the sick mother who is always a little out of place and underdressed and too quiet for her own good. I am not the trapped one who only has friends who feel sorry for her. I may even be deserving of nice clothes, not from Artie’s Secondhand and Irregulars(it doesn’t matter, you can hardly see it) clothing store, but from this year’s rack of new designs. Maybe. Maybe I will have friends who do not think they are doing a public service by befriending me; who can enjoy my company without thinking they are saving me from someone else who has done me wrong. That would be nice. Who are not trying to be a hero; who are not trying to be anything but who they authentically are.

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Yarrow or Achilles’ Weed


This article was conceived in the spring, and got lost over the summer in the “to publish” folder, so you will read about yarrow at a time of year when you can’t easily go pick it.
Hopefully it will give you something to look forward to. Come spring , the feathery yarrow sprouts will be coming up out of the ground, and the pink, yellow and white flowers will follow in summer.
In my garden, I have many herbs I planted from seed, a few gifted, and a few bought plants. Oregano, rosemary, lavender, dill, fennel, sweetgrass, white sage, coriander have all graced my yard over the years. Most are still there. Of all of them, the only one I regretted buying was yarrow. Not because I don’t like it or find it useful, but because I had to laugh out loud at myself when I brought it home to plant and found it growing wild in the yard already. Yarrow is found all over Seattle in white, pink, and yellow flowering varieties; some in gardens, some volunteering. It is one of the herbs which has a rich medicinal use history in Native American and European herbalism . In addition, it is used in the Western magical traditions and is immortalized in British poetry and folklore.

Gerard tells us that yarrow is the same plant with which Achilles staunched the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Others say that it was discovered by Achilles, Chiron’s disciple.

It was called Herba Militaris, the military herb, by the ancients. Hence the genus name, Achilles. The specific name, Millefolium, is derived from the many segments of its foliage, thousand leafed literally. It is also called milfoil, old man’s pepper, soldier’s woundwort, Knight’s Milfoil, thousand weed, staunchweed, and Devil’s nettle.(Grieves)

Yarrow grows everywhere, in the grass, at the base of trees, in meadows, by the roadside. It’s stalks are used in throwing the I Ching in China. It flowers from June to December, according to Grieves, although I’ve not seen a bloom past September. The stems are hairy, it has many fine leaves and a cluster of flowers(see pic). It spreads by root and seed.

Yarrow was much esteemed as a vulnerary, for stopping bleeding. “The Highlanders still make an ointment from it, which they apply to wounds, and Milfoil tea is held in much repute in the Orkney’s for dispelling melancholy”(Grieves, Modern Herbal) It has been called Nosebleed for its property of staunching nosebleeds, although it is also attributed with the ability to cause a nosebleed. “…there is a curious mode of divination with its serrated leaf, with which the inside of the nose is tickled while the following lines are spoken….’Yarroway, Yarroway, bear a white blow, If my love love me, my nose will bleed now”(Grieves). There must be an easier way!

Yarrow was used by Native Americans for digestive troubles and headaches, as well as for staunching wounds. It was employed as snuff in Europe, hence Old Man’s Pepper.

In the 17th century it was used in salads. Yarrow tea is a good remedy for severe colds; a decoction for kidney disorders. The bruised herb is used in Norway for rheumatism, applied topically.

In Western magical herb traditions, Yarrow is attributed to Venus, and used in love incenses and spells. An ounce of Yarrow sewed up in flannel and placed under the pillow before going to bed, having repeated the following words, brought a vision of the future husband or wife:

“Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree,

Thy true name it is Yarrow;

Now who my bosom friend must be,

Pray tell thou me to-morrow.”(Halliwell’s Popular Rhymes)

Yarrow is attributed to Venus in other sources as well, and is used in her oils and incenses. It grows wild around the Pacific Northwest and can be bought if you must. Pink, yellow and white are common. The flowers and leaves can be easily gathered without killing the plant, so there is always more next year. It is near impossible to kill if you are looking to learn to garden and haven’t yet developed a green thumb.
I will leave you with a poem from Carmina Gaedelica, that treasure trove of Celtic folkloric poetry assembled by Alexander Carmichael in the 1880s.

The Yarrow

I will pluck the yarrow fair,

That more benign shall be my face,

That more warm shall be my lips,

That more chaste shall be my speech,

Be my speech the beams of the sun,

Be my lips the sap of the strawberry.

May I be an isle in the sea,

May I be a hill on the shore,

May I be a star in the waning of the moon,

May I be a staff to the weak,

Wound can I every man,

Wound can no man me.